Diana Athill and other things - Enid Richemont

A few weeks ago, on a hot Sunday afternoon in July, I went to a talk by the writer and publisher Diana Athill, now in her middle nineties. Like so many people, I'd read her semi-biography: SOMEWHERE TOWARDS THE END (I must now get hold of her short stories which I gather are amazing). She is a fantastic person, and so beautiful - really beautiful (I've filched this image of her from the flyer, but it's not air-brushed - she really does look like that).
          She came on stage with a little assistance from her biographer, Ronald Hayman, sweeping up the aisle in a violet-turquoise gown, and proceeded to talk, without any backing notes, for about three quarters of an hour (I couldn't do that), after which she dealt very competently with questions which had to be conveyed to her by her agent because she's a bit deaf.
          One of the things she talked about was of how she had pared down her life in order to move into sheltered accomodation - the books and artworks that had to go - and I look at my own stuff and wonder how the hell she did it. I have David's lifetime collection of science fiction, which now that he's no longer here means so much to me, and my own library of much-loved books. I longed to ask her: do you have a Kindle? But I'm one of those people much too shy to throw questions at a celeb, so I didn't, but I did learn that she's happy using a computer for her work, so she probably does. What a woman!
          I've also started re-reading BRING UP THE BODIES, by Hilary Mantel, this time round for the simple pleasure of her writing.           Before he died, David had been re-publishing my out of print back list as e-books, and there are, I think, eleven digital editions, which must constitute a 'list' (comments re-publicity would be most welcome). At present, I can't bear to continue what he started, and would, anyway, need some kind of professional help with doing it.
          I also needed help with the website he set up for me a few years ago, because it froze at the point where we'd talked about the new picture book 'coming out later this year', and now it's coming out in September. This has now been sorted by my hugely helpful Wordpool colleagues, Diana and Steve Kimpton. 
          The e-books are something else, though. David's office room has a comfortable bed, so if any e-book savvies fancy a free couple of days in North London at any time in the next few months, in exchange for some sensitive help, please get in touch (think theatres, galleries, etc etc...)
          I could fill up this blog with descriptions of my continuing grief and loneliness, but instead, I'd like to publicise my grand-daughter's Covent Garden debut with the Camden Fringe. She's just seventeen, a dedicated actress, and she's starring in a two-hander, which, I think, is very brave. It's called 'TRANSPORTS', and it's on at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden from the 16th to the 21st of September.
          The play is by Jon Welch, and the blurb: 'A sociopathic fifteen year old is shunted into her final foster home, where her widowed foster mother has a hint of a foreign accent, verbal diarrhoea, and a trunk full of secrets'. 
          If you can, please come. It's already had brilliant reviews in both the West Briton and The Cornishman (my daughter settled in Cornwall many years ago), but putting it on the London stage, albeit the Fringe, is something else.

          Find Enid's other ebooks here.



Bill Kirton said…
I haven't had the pleasure of being at a Diana Athill event, Enid, but I have seen P. D. James in action and she too, at whatever age she's now reached, is a formidable performer. She talked for over an hour, without notes and it was all beautifully structured. Thanks for posting and, again, I hope the grief does start morphing into something warmer soon.
madwippitt said…
Sending hugs Enid. Tenth anniversary this weekend: still painful but I promise you it does eventually become more dealable with. Pour yourself a glass of wine, make a toast, pour a libation and hang in there. xxx
Lydia Bennet said…
hugs from me too Enid. You are keeping on keeping on, which is the best we can ask of ourselves at times like these. I'm sure everything will get sorted with your ebooks. Good to hear your grand-daughter's doing well in her chosen field, this must be a boost for you too.x
Dennis Hamley said…
I agree. It's hard, Enid, but it will pass and, thought it doesn't seem likely now, you will reach peace and contentment in the end. Yes, Bill, I've seen PD James in action too, last year at 93. When asked what she was writing now, she said she was only taking on small projects as she didn't think it was worth starting anything big, which was about the most philosophical remark I've ever heard. When I was going to Andre Deutsch a lot when I started being published I always hoped I would meet Diana Athill, but she always seemed to be in a meeting or in the next room talking to an author, Jean Rhys for all I knew, and never quite coming into view. Eheu!
Diana Athill sounds a lovely lady - I hope I am still publishing books and giving talks in my nineties. I remember an article somewhere saying writers mature late, which is encouraging.

Good luck with everything - I enjoyed your ebook "Dragoncat".
julia jones said…
I saw Diana Athill when she won the Costa biog prize - was hugely impressed but possibly thought that would be It. Instead on she goes, inspiring us. Thanks Enid
Guernsey Girl said…
What a brave and honest post - I'm sure you inspire others who are going through the process of grieving...

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